Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving Direct Payments
Weekly COVID-19 testing for personal assistants
For testing purposes, a ‘personal assistant’ is someone who is directly employed by an individual (or self-employed) to provide care and support to enable them to live as independently as possible. This care could include support in the home, or to go out into the community.
How to access weekly testing
Personal assistants who work in England, are employed or self-employed and are required to come within 2 metres of an adult they support, are eligible to order test kits every 28 days.
If preferred, an employer can order test kits for their personal assistants and four tests will be delivered for each personal assistant for a 28 day testing cycle.
Please note that the test kits can’t be posted through a letterbox so someone will need to be available to accept delivery.
Every 7 days a personal assistant should take a test, register it online, and return it by post (using a Royal Mail priority post box). Personal assistants will receive their results in 48 hours by email and text message (SMS).
Full guidance is available on how personal assistants can access weekly COVID-19 testing, including instructional videos, detailed processes and how to access more information and guidance.
You can also sign up for live webinars which talks you through the end-to-end for personal assistant testing and there will also be a live question and answer session.
Coronavirus Vaccinations for Personal Assistants.
If you employ or arrange Personal Assistants you will be able to offer the Covid19 vaccine to them.
The Royal Borough of Kingston have considered personal assistants within this high risk group. Please note we will support both paid PAYE and Self-employed PAs supporting Royal Borough of Kingston residents.
Unpaid/family carers can seek advice from Kingston Carers Network. Care staff employed by a care agency should contact heir own employers. The priority order is based on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice.
What do you need to do?
Please discuss if your personal assistant wishes to have the vaccine first, if they do please and happy to share their details:
Full names, DOB, Gender, Email, Mobile, NHS Number, their home postcode.
Then contact Kingston Centre for Independent Living (KCIL):
[email protected] or phone: 020 8546 9603 who are collating this information for us.
KCIL will also provide you with a letter for your personal assistants, who will need to show this before getting the vaccine.
Your personal assistant will then be contacted by Royal Borough of Kingston's Direct Payments Officer (usually on Friday) with further informaiton and the booking link.
Click here for more information on the Coronavirus vaccinations
Be aware of vaccine scams
The COVID-19 vaccine is free.
The Council and the NHS will never ask for payment details so please ignore any texts, emails or cold calls where you are being asked to make payment for vaccines.
New Opportunity for Rapid Testing for people WITHOUT Coronavirus Symptoms.
Some new opportunities for you and your employees to access newly available testing for people without coronavirus symptoms. The purpose of the testing is to help find cases of the virus in people with no symptoms, but who may be unknowingly spreading the infection. Twice weekly rapid result COVID-19 tests at one of our new Community Testing sites. Other testing venues will be brought on-line shortly and this testing offer will be updated accordingly to reflect this. It will hopefully mean there are testing locations closer to where people live and work. This testing is for anyone who works directly with/ supports adults and who doesn’t have coronavirus symptoms. This test is now also open to people working as PAs, living in supported living settings and people attending day services.
Please see link for further information: Testing and Contact Tracing
Supporting Direct Payment users
Following government guidelines, RBK have implemented the following changes:
- Mandatory requirements through internal recording systems;
- Communicating Direct Payment information to individuals through Kingston Centre for Independent Living (KCIL) and Kingston Carers Network (KCN);
- RBK are maintaining high-risk registers. These are managed within the social care teams including implementing emergency/contingency plans;
- RBK has paid an emergency payment to Direct Payment holders in April 2020 during the first lockdown;
- RBK are communicating to DP holders to arrange Personal Assistants by email and text messages;
- The Council are working closely with voluntary sector organisations to provide support with managing demand, PPE and testing and vaccines.
Order your CARE badge
The Department of Health and Social Care is providing CARE badges free of charge to staff employed across the adult social care sector, including those working as personal assistants. This is to recognise their critical work, particularly during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For PAs to order a badge, they will need to create a new account on the online ordering services. To do this they need to give their name, delivery address, email address. There is an ‘organisation name’ section, which can be left blank.
Access CARE badges
Personal Assistants access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
If you employ a personal assistant and where you need PPE as a result of the wearing the right PPE guidance, you are entitled to this for free.
If either you or a member of your household falls within the clinically extremely vulnerable group, your personal assistant should also follow advice on the use of PPE.
Do not use the Direct Payment funding to buy PPE.
The Department for Health and Social Care have committed to providing free PPE for COVID-19 needs.
You can access this through Kingston Council. Email: [email protected] Telephone: 0208 547 5005
(Where Direct Payment holders arrange a support provider (Agency), the provider should arrange appropriate PPE).
Free Flu vaccines for Personal Assistants (PAs).
All frontline health and social care workers should get the winter flu vaccination – including all Personal Assistants (PAs). For the first time, this year, PAs will be able to access the vaccine free of charge from GPs and community pharmacies, via the NHS Complementary Scheme. This vaccination is available now.
Guidance will be published soon however we are taking the step of issuing a summary and how to access it so that PAs can begin to access the flu vaccination now.
To access the scheme, PAs will simply need to attend a GP surgery or community pharmacy and identify themselves as a PA. However, we are aware that individuals have been asked to provide proof in the past and we have therefore provided a letter that can be used for identification. (Applies to both PAYE and Self-employed PAs)
The process for PAs to access the flu vaccination, is as follows:
- Contact Kingston Centre for Independent living (KCIL) who will share the letter with you. E-mail [email protected] or phone: 020 8546 9603.
- The direct payment holder will fill out the letter, to prove they are a PA. Once the PA has this, this will act as their ‘letter of entitlement’ to the vaccination.
- They will then need to visit their local GP or community pharmacist, who will be able to give them the flu vaccination. If they need to prove their entitlement, they can use the letter of entitlement provided.
- The vaccination will then be given to them, free of charge.
Job Retention schemes.
How personal assistants (PAs) will be affected by the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme.
We expect that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will not be used by many Direct Payment holders this is because we consider personal assistants to be an essential worker who provide vital care and support, and as such, use of this scheme should be minimal.
We recognise there will be certain circumstances where it would be appropriate for a Direct Payment holder to furlough somebody they employ. For example, if your personal assistant has been advised to shield through a letter from the NHS or has certain caring responsibilities.
The eligibility of self-employed personal assistants for the scheme.
Self-employed personal assistants are not eligible for the scheme. People who are Self-Employed who have been affected by coronavirus should check whether they are eligible to receive a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. This is easy to use and will tell a worker whether they are eligible and how much they can claim.
Continuing to allow flexibility.
1 .If you find that your support arrangements have or will breakdown you should follow your agreed emergency plan. If you are unable to find a different arrangment contact your allocated social care worker who will work with you to ensure care and support is in place through alternative arrangements such as mutual aid or directly arranged by the Council.
2. Where possible Direct Payment reviews will continue as planned during the pandemic however we will prioritise your review where this is requested. If your circumstances change contact you allocated social care worker.
3. We will be sympathetic when considering requests to pay a close family member if you need care provided by them. This is not intended to replace family income. This must be agreed with us and be considered if there is a breakdown in your current arrangements. It is not intended to replace income, The amount and duration will be agreed with us. Providers and personal assistants are expected to continue working as essential workers following the governemnts infection control guidelines.
When we decide if it is necessary for a familily member to support, we will consider the following:
- The reason your existing personal assistant or support provider cannot continue to support you
- Normal employment and payroll processes will need to be followed, including agreeing hours, pay rates and duration of support
- Whether a family member being considred needs any additional training and assessment of competence to carry out the duties to meet the needs
- Whether there are any additional costs involved
- If family members takes on paid care and support work, whether this will impact on any financial benefits they receive (Income will need to be declared to HMRC through usual employment process)
- Family members are often already providing significant levels of care and support, we would expect family members to step in voluntarily short term but will consider any impact on the family members’ health and wellbeing, and whether any unreasonable strain is being put on them when being paid to provide care and support
- If the family member being considered is also the Direct Payment holder there will be a conflict of interest managing funds too. In these instances, employment of the family member through an agency or third party may be a solution.
- Consideration will be made to any impact it may have on relationships/boundaries if the family member is also an employee (PA).
Making payments to services you are not able to attend or use to meet your needs.
You are not required to use direct payments to pay for services you are not able to attend unless this is clearly stated in the contract you hold with the service. If this is the case, and you are required to make payments even though you do not receive the service or request it, you should speak to the council as soon as possible.
You should not be paying for services using direct payment money if the provider has not been supporting you (Except for PAYE Personal Assistants where employment rules apply). At your next review we will ask for the money back not used to meet your needs during the pandemic. Please speak to your allocated social care worker if you need more information or advise.
Developing a contingency plan.
We recommend that everybody with a Direct Payment develops a contingency plan, or updates their existing plan, to ensure needs can continue to be met if care is at risk of breaking down because of COVID-19. You should discuss and agree this plan with your allocated social care worker then use it when you think it is necessary. Things you may want to consider are:
- Staffing (if you have Personal Assistants);
- Different care and support arrangements;
- Different networks of support;
- Upskilling of existing staff;
- Emergency contacts.
Reviewing of Direct Payments during the pandemic
Direct Payments will continue to be reviewed during the pandemic. We will take a proportionate approach to reviewing how Direct Payments have been spent. Records should be kept as normal so they are available when the next review takes place. If your circumstances have changed please speak to your allocated social care worker so we can prioritise where urgent support is needed.
Evidencing spending during the pandemic
As normal practice, you should keep hold of any receipts or evidence that shows how the Direct Payment has been used. You should have them available at your next review with RBK, this includes bank statements when requested.
How do Direct Payment holders contact the Council?
The local area helpline number is: 0208 547 5005 or email: [email protected] if you have any questoin about your support needs. You will be directed to your allocated social care worker/team.
These arrangements will not continue beyond the period of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and may change as and when further guidance is circulated or are developments in the pandemic. This page is continuously being updated and may be replaced by new guidance.
ASC Direct Payments
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